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Suspicious Review – James Nesbitt Races Infinitely in Unbearable Luther-lite | TV crime drama

In Suspect (Channel 4), James Nesbitt plays a clumsy detective caught in a slapstick hijacker… to quit, of course he does not. Nesbitt is Danny, a moody, restless policeman – married at work, alienated from his family – who ends up unofficially investigating the murder of a close relative. This is a remake of a popular Danish noir series The Interrogation, so it was never going to be a light frolic, but it requires dedication to the dark side to make Nesbitt’s last outing as a troubled policeman, Bloodlands, look optimistic .

There are two episodes per night until it ends on Wednesday. I was allowed to watch seven of the eight, so if the big revelation makes this one of the smartest crime series of all time, I can only apologize for being too early. It has a winter cold so pronounced that I almost put on a sweater, so it seems strange to strip it over a hot week in June. Each short episode is a two-handed play between Nesbitt and another actor, but sometimes others stop by for a minute or two. It is not unlike the Netflix series Criminal, although it watched one case per episode, instead of putting out one case throughout the run.

The case, then. Danny enters the morgue for a chat with pathologist Jackie (Joely Richardson) about the body of an as yet unidentified young woman, who presents herself as a suicide. Naturally, he is suspicious of the circumstances, because that’s the kind of copper he is. After some technical notes, Danny leaves to leave, only for something to pull him back to the record. (Quite a lot of the action moves forward on the characters’ intuition.) He recognizes the chain that has been placed in a sterile plastic jar. He lets out a howl of pain.

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It’s not too much of a spoiler to reveal that the body turns out to be his daughter, Christina, because the rest of the series depends on Danny tearing around and trying to find out who murdered her. But not until he has a meltdown in the morgue, and refuses to believe that Christina took her own life. “Open her, or I’ll do it myself,” he roars, waving a scalpel at Jackie, whom he has locked in the morgue with him. “They’re going to throw that damn book at you for this,” she spits. Suspicion is many things, but underestimated is not one of them.

It is clear that Suspect is aiming for a certain mood, a kind of Luther-lite. It’s noisy, all the neon lights in dark corners, with places called Crimson Orchid (a strip club), Baz’s Sauna and Gym (a boxing club) and, uh, County Racecourse. But it’s a strained version of noir that does not land, and that often ends up as cartoonish. During the series, Danny jumps from lead to lead role, and follows the trail of breadcrumbs that teach him about his daughter’s life. On his journey of discovery, we meet Christina’s friends, colleagues, partner and the various mistakes in her path.

Since the couple has been estranged, Danny knows nothing about Christina’s life as an adult. He threw her out when she was 15, we are led to believe, when he found her in bed with another girl. Seen from his most flattering angle, the idea that he may have to learn who his daughter is by putting together the remnants of her life is exciting. The fact that her life consisted of the parts and the people he has spent his career fighting for gives a low sum of tragedy. Anne-Marie Duff, who appears late in the series as Christina’s mother, gives lots of grief and gravitas, as you might expect.

The opening text, which makes this look like a Cluedo game with big budgets, and I guess it is, proudly shows the cast. This is a first-class collection of British and Irish acting talent, from Richard E Grant to Niamh Algar. The theme requires intensity, and Nesbitt has to go toe-to-toe with them; after all the raging, I can only imagine he was cracked after filming it. It’s very theatrical, and strangely enough it has the feel of early lockdown TV, when so much was done with as little as possible. But this is not a lockdown, and I found the theater so amplified – Christina regularly appears to her father as a kind of glittering clue from life after death – that it had lost me completely by episode seven.

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